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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Greetings All
I thought Id post this commentary Steve Lacy made regarding the soprano sax:

"Soprano is like the ungrateful child. The difficult child of the family. The high, shrill infant.
And its a difficult instrument because its small, and it tends to be pinched and out of tune, and difficult to control. Like hysterical, it has a tendency to go hysterical.
I just work on these negative aspects of it and try and tame it. Its like a horse when you keep riding it and keep riding it. Its a wild horse. After awhile you get control of it and it starts to respond and it starts to cool down.
Its a long process, it took me....well, Im still working on it 33 years now. And Im still grappling with the instruments mysteries...."
-Mr Steve Lacy-

I love what he said here as even though Im an elementary player I can appreciate what he says. I havent played another type of sax since my school years nor do I want to.

But I have found this instrument difficult to play, and most rewarding despite the fact at this time Im only playing in basic books relearning scales, fingering, and reading.

Often it is the bright spot of my day. I can only hope that one year I can play what I hear in my head, and let the horn take me places I havent yet gone.

I posted this as there is so much experience here in this board. Adding all the experienced players I would bet there are a few hundred years of playing time combined.

I would love to hear what players here love about the soprano, the challenges theyve had with it, and why they keep playing it (especially those that play this horn professionaly or as serious semi-pros and amatuers).

The more dicussion the better, as I cant get enough of this little horn!
Thanks
 

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I found Selmers to be hard to control. I would describe them more so as just poor instruments. The Taiwanese models, and in particular the one that i play now, is no wild horse. Its a tame tiger.
 

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I found Selmers to be hard to control. I would describe them more so as just poor instruments. The Taiwanese models, and in particular the one that i play now, is no wild horse. Its a tame tiger.
So... which model are you playing?
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I found Selmers to be hard to control. I would describe them more so as just poor instruments. The Taiwanese models, and in particular the one that i play now, is no wild horse. Its a tame tiger.
I see this is going to immediately degrade into a technical brand vs brand debate. Which it is not supposed to be. Considering Mr Lacy began playing around 1948 (at 14 yrs of age) Im willing to bet he played other brands besides Selmer. And for that matter the Selmer Sops I tried played equaly as well as the Yani I know own. I just couldnt afford them!

I think when he refers to the instrument as a "Wild horse" and "Difficult to control" he is speaking more in philosophical terms especially when one considers what he was doing with altissimo and improvisation etc.

But then again, I could be entirely wrong!
 

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And I don't find the sop to be difficult. I am not an accomplished player, but I do take my sax hobby seriously. I've read nothing but how difficult the soprano is to play, and to play in tune. I initially had difficulty, having to bite real hard on the reed to get a tone. With just a few weeks of playing, that changed radically, and my soprano blows so free and easy compared to my other horns. All my family comment how much smoother and better I sound on my sop than the others. It just seems to fit me better. And my tuner indicates I am playing mostly in tune.
 

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If I recall correctly Mr. Lacy played on a huge Link 12* so it will be almost impossible to me to play in tune, or have control on that opening. I'm not saying that it could be 'free blowing' or whatever that means, but it's hard to me on tips of .075 or more. I'm not have that kind of troubles with my current setup. Certain Mp's require different air support and different reeds and sometimes the tip opening is not the only variable to feel comfortable but I deal to get the sound I want and the response I prefer. I'm very happy with my setup.
 

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If I recall correctly Mr. Lacy played on a huge Link 12* so it will be almost impossible to me to play in tune, or have control on that opening. I'm not saying that it could be 'free blowing' or whatever that means, but it's hard to me on tips of .075 or more. I'm not have that kind of troubles with my current setup. Certain Mp's require different air support and different reeds and sometimes the tip opening is not the only variable to feel comfortable but I deal to get the sound I want and the response I prefer. I'm very happy with my setup.
+ 1 - IMO your asking for trouble (or in Steves term a wild horse) if you plug a 12* on the end of any Soprano. I use a much more conservative set up that gives me great control and a dark sound. But im not Steve Lacy !
 

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So... which model are you playing?
I play a Barone (Taiwan) Classic. In answer to the OP (I would love to hear what players here love about the soprano, the challenges they've had with it, and why they keep playing it).

* I Love the look and sound of the Soprano
* Once I got my set up correct, I faced no more challenges than i would face on my tenor. In fact my soprano is easier to play than my tenor.
* I keep playing it because of point a. And i find an avenue for it in my regular jazz duo gigs.
 

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I started on soprano and I don't recall struggling because it was a soprano, only because I was young and inexperienced. After 55 years of playing the darned thing, I still struggle with it, but again - not the soprano part, just the music part. I also think that expanding to alto and clarinet helped me develop more and how to deal with the smallish soprano.

I will agree with part of the Lacy quote - about the horn being small and thus subject to more problems than the more popular larger saxophones. Those small tolerances don't allow much wiggle room, at least not as much as the larger saxophones. Pitch control is a real test of a soprano player's embouchure. Of course, it helps to be able to select the correct equipment for one's chops.

I like the sound of the thing, especially when played by the guys who I admire on soprano. The modernists? Not so much. But when I hear Bechet, Wilber, Hodges, Darensbourg, and some other traditionalists, I swoon.

I like the role it can play in a trad band - I can play the clarinet role or play lead on it. I can do duets and trios and make a statement with it that doesn't quite come across on alto or clarinet. But that's just me.

I bounce among several I own, but favor my Yanagisawa S992 and my '28 Buescher TT. DAVE
 

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Having come through a difficult patch where i reinvented my embouchure and then went through reed hell trying to find the right combination of mpce and reed for a very relaxed emboucher I relate to SL's comments. I suspect we go through stages where we get on top of the horse and ride it for a while then start pushing the boundaries and it all gets off some and then we find a way to ride it again and ..... etc. etc. etc.
 

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I bounce among several I own, but favor my Yanagisawa S992 and my '28 Buescher TT. DAVE
Dave, that '28 Buescher TT must be some horn if it's anything like the one I have! :bluewink:

I love playing soprano, just love the sound, and the way you can make it sweet and gentle, or give it an edge. Playing in tune can be a challenge, because you have to listen--and know where you're trying to go before you go there. The instrument won't play in tune for you just because you put your mouthpiece in the right place on the neck (the way my Yanagisawa tenor almost does). But it's not any harder than singing in tune (as if that was easy).

EDIT: I just re-read the Lacy quote again, and realize I probably sound like an idiot, and a pretty crappy soprano player, since the horn doesn't make me think of a wild horse. To me, you pick up a soprano and suddenly you've got a powerful voice. Yeah, it's hard. But I think every instrument is hard, because they could always be played better. If you can get people to stay in a room to hear you play the soprano, instead of leaving the room to get away from it, you're doing pretty well. (I've driven miles to be in a room where Dave Dolson was playing, and enjoyed every minute of it, by the way.)
 

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I spend as much time re arranging mouthpieces, reed combos, tongueing quiet, then too loud, and on and on trying to sound good/normal? the rest of the time I spend reading and playing, sometimes I say I wish it was like a piano just hit the key and get the perfect note! BUT when you do get it right what a reward. My wife says to me why dont you get an alto or tenor if you say they are easier to play...makes sense..but I like the challenge, and I am a Steve lacy fan.I dont want to give up, but conquer it.
 

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My objection to selmer sopranos is the palm and lh pinky stack. I play a yamaha 61 that I've had since 1976. Some are easier to play in tune than others, but I think there's a variablility from horn to horn that makes generalizations like 'taiwanese sopranos' or 'japanese sopranos' or 'french sopranos' invalid, and precariously near 'fanboy' status.

I played oboe years before I knew there was such a thing as a soprano sax. Soprano sax is quite easy in comparison to an oboe, at least for me.

Although I use a conservative 6 on soprano, I have tried all the way up to a .094 on soprano. If I could have found a 1 1/2 reed like Lacy is said to have used, I wouldn't have any trouble playing it. I just use what works for me, like on all of my other horns. I just prefer big tips on alto and tenor, and smaller tips on soprano and baritone.
 

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Lacy was a bit of a poet (not that he wrote poetry, but he read a lot of it and set much of it to music), so I wouldn't read too much into the "wild horse" line, or the rest of this quote. It's just his way of saying the soprano is quirky sometimes, and even those who dedicate themselves to it find themselves occasionally trying to tame it. Those who play it only occasionally probably don't have that problem, since they're not really pushing it.

I certainly run up against a wall on soprano now and again, and find that setting it aside and playing tenor for a few days "clears the palette" and allows me to return to the straight horn with a fresh mindset.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Lacy was a bit of a poet (not that he wrote poetry, but he read a lot of it and set much of it to music), so I wouldn't read too much into the "wild horse" line, or the rest of this quote. It's just his way of saying the soprano is quirky sometimes, and even those who dedicate themselves to it find themselves occasionally trying to tame it. Those who play it only occasionally probably don't have that problem, since they're not really pushing it.

I certainly run up against a wall on soprano now and again, and find that setting it aside and playing tenor for a few days "clears the palette" and allows me to return to the straight horn with a fresh mindset.
Thank you for saying this as this was exactly how I percieved this statement. I would even take it one step further into the realm of love for this instrument. He cerrainly dedicated himself to it for some reason or another and pushed its limits into redefining what many considered a second horn.

I know there are people here who play this horn professio.aly and almost exclusively, and others that are serious ametuers or semiprofessionals (as well as those who seriously study and double this horn). I would love to hear more from all of you about your experiences playing over the years.

Have you had difficulties finding and working with instructors as there are so few who even
seriohly play this instrument? Does it even matter ( Trane studied theory with a guitar player)?

What styles of music do you play? What challenges have you faced finding bands to play in and are other musicians even open to sopranos as primary instruments ( I always see horn lines consisting of altos and tenors etc)? Has it been necessary to just front your own band for this reason (I notice SL often performed solo although he certainly didnt bave to)?

And considering the challenges and "limitations" why do you keep doing it?

Thanks everyone! Have a nice weekend...
 

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First, I think there is more work for a bagpiper than a soprano saxophonist.

And considering the challenges and "limitations" why do you keep doing it?
It is just the sound that means the most to me. I love the sound of all horns but they don't mean as much to me personally as a player, for whatever reason.
I feel like me on the soprano, so that's what I play.
 

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I play along with Sreve Lacy tunes (on cd) I love his style, Also I think the Sop. has the ability to 'sing' like a human voice. I only play Sop.
 

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I love the sound of all horns but they don't mean as much to me personally as a player, for whatever reason. I feel like me on the soprano, so that's what I play.
I'll second that thought. I love playing tenor now and again, but the soprano feels more natural to me. It "fits" my musical conception, and I never tire of playing it.
 
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